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Why a 'Hunger Games' movie prequel could face major challenges at the box office

Business Insider | Jun 17, 2019, 11.17PM IST

jennifer lawrence hunger games mockingjay part 2

Lionsgate

"The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2" (2015)

  • Lionsgate is planning a "Hunger Games" prequel movie, based on an upcoming novel.
  • While the four "Hunger Games" movies were successful, the prequel isn't guaranteed to be a hit.
  • As this summer of disappointing sequels shows, it's becoming increasingly difficult for any non-Disney tentpole movie to attract audiences to theaters.
  • Similar to the "Harry Potter" prequel series, "Fantastic Beasts," audiences may not be as invested if the prequel strays too far from the original material.
  • "Fantastic Beasts" relies heavily on international audiences, but that may not be as reliable for a new "Hunger Games" movie.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The studio Lionsgate is planning a prequel to its popular "Hunger Games" movie franchise, based on an upcoming 2020 novel by series author Suzanne Collins.

"As the proud home of the Hunger Games movies, we can hardly wait for Suzanne's next book to be published," Lionsgate said in a statement on Monday. "We've been communicating with her during the writing process and we look forward to continuing to work closely with her on the movie."

But the prequel is not guaranteed to be a blockbuster like its predecessors.

READ MORE: 5 lousy movie sequels have flopped already this summer and dragged down the total box office

The four "Hunger Games" movies - released in back-to-back years from 2012 to 2015, and starring Jennifer Lawrence - were major hits, raking in a combined $3 billion worldwide. The most expensive movie to make out of the four was "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2," with a production budget of $160 million. The first movie had a modest budget of $78 million compared to its $694 million global gross.

But a lot has changed since the last movie in the franchise, "Mockingjay - Part 2," in 2015. As this summer of lousy sequels has proven, it's becoming increasingly difficult for any non-Disney tentpole film to break out in a major way. Movies like "Dark Phoenix" and "Men in Black: International" have already flopped dramatically compared to their predecessors.

Meanwhile, Disney movies dominate every year, and three sit at the top of the box office this year both domestically and worldwide. The company's Marvel Cinematic Universe has especially fine-tuned its approach with audiences in the four years since the "Hunger Games" was last in theaters.

hunger games catching fire

Murray Close/Lionsgate

"The Hunger Games:

The "Hunger Games" movies haven't built up that kind of goodwill with audiences. And while the movies were successful, they decreased at the box office with each installment after the second, "Catching Fire." "Mockingjay - Part 2" still earned $653 million worldwide, so it's obvious why Lionsgate would want to make another movie - but will audiences show up for it?

The best comparison might be to the "Harry Potter" franchise, which has spawned the less successful "Fantastic Beats" prequel series. "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2" made $1.3 billion worldwide. "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" made over $800 million, but its sequel, "The Crimes of Grindelwald," made $653 million, 75% of which came from international audiences.

Those aren't poor numbers, but it shows that audiences might not be invested in a prequel if it strays too far from the original material, and the "Hunger Games" is already not as popular as "Harry Potter." In this case, the prequel, which will be set decades in the past, wouldn't feature the franchise's superstar, Lawrence.

Normally, international box office could make up for a lacking domestic box office, but the "Hunger Games" movies were always almost as popular in the US as they were internationally. The highest earning movie in the franchise for instance, "Catching Fire," made 49% of its box office in the US, so international viewers may not be as reliable to give the prequel a boost if it performs underwhelmingly domestically.

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